Essential Yoga Therapy : The Book

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Cover design by Raul Sand

Illustrations by Swarika Sharma and Raul Sand

After reading this book you will understand:

  • The benefits of a regular asana practice for the skeletal system and how it prevents and slows down the process of osteoporosis
  • why athletes perform better when they include an asana practice in their training schedule and have less muscle, tendon and ligament related injuries;
  • how the structure of the brain changes with a regular mediation practice and how the changes in the brain decrease feelings of stress, promote the ability to focus, and develops empathy and compassion
  • the health benefits of pranayama and how they can be used in a therapeutical setting for people with stress and stress related diseases, asthma or other lung related diseases
  • solid foundation in the understanding of breathing and how it effects the anatomy and physiology of the respiratory system and gives a sense of calmness and happiness
  •  the underlying mechanisms to cardiovascular diseases and which practices you should and should not do in case of high or low blood pressure
  • the importance of a healthy digestive system and diet in relation to physical and mental, and spiritual development
  • the great role of hormones play on our mood and health and how asana, pranayama and meditation lowers stress-related hormones
  • how yoga therapy can improve health issues related to women’s reproductive health

You need this book to


– have an in-depth knowledge of the skeletal system and so that you can identify all the major bones their movement and an understanding of their function and heal bone and joint related illnesses


– gain complete knowledge of the most important concepts of muscle physiology and how you can use that in a therapeutic setting to relieve skeletal and muscle related injuries


– have a seamless understanding of other tissues in the body like tendons, ligaments and fascia and why and how we keep them healthy


– understand how to both contract and stretch the same muscle and hence give different poses and suggestions to different students, depending on their individual posture


– to be able to determine which particular muscle needs strengthening and which muscle needs stretching by simply looking at an individual in a (yoga) pose


– to understand the importance of diet in relation to physical, mental, and spiritual health and why we avoid certain foods


– to gain deep understanding of the brain and the rest of the nervous system and the effect of yogic practices such as asana, breathing and meditation


– to attain a deep knowledge of modern diseases like diabetes, slipped disc and lower back pain, stress and burn out, heart and vessel diseases, coeliakie and irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety, fears and panic attacks and through which pathways yoga works to both relieve and prevent them


– gain a solid foundation in the understanding of breathing and how it effects the anatomy and physiology of the respiratory system and gives a sense of calmness and happiness


– be able to understand scientific research done on yoga




Essential Yoga Therapy – A beginner guide to applying yoga therapy


This book introduces you to the essential concepts of yoga therapy. Weaving in physiology of the human body it explains why, and how, yoga and meditation are beneficial and have the potential to prevent and cure modern lifestyle diseases. In an easy and conversational manner Merel brings detailed physiology to life tapping into insights and understanding from both scientific research as well as experience from practice. She brings the subject matter in such a way that physiology becomes interesting, fun and a must-have for every serious yoga practitioner, teacher and therapist.


Chapter 1: yoga u0026amp; the nervous system


All of the human body systems work together and are somehow related. One of the most important systems that directly influences the (healthy) functioning of the other body systems and organs is the nervous system. In this chapter we look at the anatomical and functional divisions of the nervous system. After studying the different parts and functions we look at how yoga practice (but mainly meditation) directly changes structures in the brain which are related to (clinically) lower feelings of stress, improved ability to focus, and more feelings of empathy and compassion. All of these are scientifically known to be related to feelings of happiness. Moreover this chapter introduces the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system and how the activation of the latter through yogic practices influences all the other body systems.


Chapter 2: yoga u0026amp; the skeletal system


A regular asana practice is known to prevent and slow down processes such as osteoporosis. In this chapter we look into the make up of bones and look at how bones renew themselves. WIth that understanding we look at how an asana practice, rather than any other type of exercise, promotes a healthy skeletal system.


Chapter 3: yoga u0026amp; the muscular system


Most of us are introduced to yoga and start their path through asana. The benefits of a safe asana practice go much further than solely being more flexible. We study the tissue of muscles and how an asana practice improves both strength and flexibility. You will come to understand why athletes that practice asana have less chance of tendon and ligament related injuries.


Chapter 4: yoga u0026amp; the respiratory system


Breathing is one of the most automatic processes that we do, all day long. Unconsciously however we can develop all sorts of unhealthy breathing patterns caused by emotional events. Such breathing patterns have detrimental effect on our health. Through yoga we can adjust our breathing habits which have immense positive effects. Other than that pranayama is know to be beneficial for people with respiratory related diseases such as asthma and COPD. In this chapter we will study the physiology of the respiratory system, understand why we actually need to breath and how breathing and emotions are so much related.


Chapter 5: yoga u0026amp; the cardiovascular system


Todays lifestyle and dietary habits are highly related to cardiovascular diseases. Asana and meditation practice and certain pranayama are related to lowering blood pressure and slowing down, and even reverting, the development of atherosclerosis (blocking of the arteries) which is one of the major underlying processeses to many cardiovascular diseases. It is important to understand the functioning of the heart and the principle of blood pressure and how it can rise, or fall. With this understanding we will look into detail to the benefits of certain yogic practices on the heart and vessels.


Chapter 6: yoga u0026amp; the endocrine system


WHere the nervous system is responsible for quick and short ‘messaging’ in the body, the endocrine system sends messages from one part of the body to the other packaged in hormones that travel through the blood. The endocrine system is a highly complex system with many positive and negative feedback loops. Unfortunately the hormonal system is thrown out of balance by stress and emotions easily with many health issues as a consequence, e.g. diabetes, reproductive diseases, hyper- or hypothyroidism. This chapter will introduce the major glands and hormones of the endocrine system, how they interact with each other and how and which yogic practices we can use for preventing and potentially treating certain diseases


Chapter 7: yoga u0026amp; digestive system


This chapter we will study the digestive system and how yoga positively influences the function of the digestive system. A healthy digestive system is greatly linked to overall health and well being, which has been recognized since long by the science of Indian Medicine (Ayurveda) and more and more by Western medical science as well. More and more is being researched and understood about the link between nutrition, proper digestion and health. Nutrition is partly determined by the food we eat but moreover by healthy functioning (physiology) of the digestive tract. Good news for us as yoga practitioners and teachers is that yoga directly influences health of the digestive tract. More indirectly, people that practice yoga and meditation usually (gradually) make healthier life choices and choose healthier foods. As any other organ system, the digestive system is not a stand-alone system and influences other organs systems and thus overall well being. For example, not unimportantly but not widely known, is the fact that the digestive system plays an important role in our immune system. Gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT) is present all throughout our digestive system. Thus, the benefits of a healthy digestive system go far. I would say 1+1 = 4, and not 3.


Have a peak through the chapters and the questions that this book will answer for you .


Skeletal System


  • What is the skeletal system?
  • What is the function of the skeletal system?
  • Which bones make up the skeletal system?
  • What are the major joints to know as a yoga therapist?
  • How do joints move in space?
  • How does an asana practice benefit the skeletal system?
  • Muscular System
  • What is the muscular system
  • What is the function of the muscular system?
  • What is the difference between contraction and stretching?
  • Different types of contraction
  • Different types of stretching
  • Why are asana classes good for muscles
  • How are muscles attached to bones?
  • What are tendons? What is their structural make up?
  • How can an asana class be dangerous for the tendons?
  • How can we prevent from injuring our tendons?
  • Why is it good to take some rest after a few days?
  • What is the story behind emotions that are being stored in muscles?
  • Why do certain poses release tension in certain muscles release certain emotions?

Nervous System


  • What is the anatomy of the nervous system
  • How can we anatomically divide the nervous system
  • What is the central nervous system, which parts is it made up of and What are their functions?
  • Functional division of the nervous system?
  • What is the effect of yoga on the nervous system
  • What is the difference between the higher and lower brain. why would we want to use our higher brain more consciously.
  • What is the effect of a yoga, pranayama and meditation practice specifically on the using of either the higher or lower brain.
  • Why does yoga give you more control over your emotions and makes that you can ‘step back’?
  • What part of the brain is being used in an asana class compared to What part is being used in daily walking?
  • Why is it so good to use those parts of the brain in an asana class?
  • How does the brain control the autonomous nervous system and how can we override this in yoga practice?
  • Why would we want to override the autonomous nervous system?
  • What is the normal balance between sympathetic and parasymphatetic system and how does it get out of balance? How can yoga bring back the balance?
  • Why is yoga good for people with depression?
  • Why is yoga good for people with sleeping disorder?
  • How does yoga make people feel more happy?
  • How does the nervous system relate to the other systems in the body and why does a positive effect on the nervous system influence all the other systems?
  • What are nerve plexuses and ganglia and What is their anatomical position in the body?
  • W do twisting poses energise you and why do neck rolls and poses on the sacrum make you relaxed
  • Whatis Ujjayi breath
  • Dreams, brain waves and yoga and meditation?

Respiratory system


  • What is the anatomy of the respiratory system
  • How does the respiratory system function
  • Why do we need to breath? What happens with the oxygen once inside the body? What is the explicit function of inhaling, What is the explicit function of exhaling.
  • Why do we focus so much on focusing on your breath in yoga?
  • Why does slow breathing make you feel more relaxed? how can breathing activate the parasymphatetic nervous system
  • Why is an asana practice good for your respiratory system?
  • Why is pranayama good for your respiratory system?
  • What is the relationship between prana and breathing? What is prana, where is it stored in the body, how is this being effected by breathing
  • What is the relationship between prana and the nostirls and our mind?
  • What is the effect of different pranayam practices on our respiratory system (alveoli, breathing capacity, etc.) and why is that good?
  • Why do we want to hold our breath in pranayama practices? try to understand by looking at the control of the respiratory system
  • Why should we not breath very intensely when we have high blood pressure, are pregnant, dizzy, sick, etc.?
  • What is the use of retaining our breath, how does that benefit us?
  • What is the relationship between the breath and the mind? many have said, the mind is quiet when there is no breathing.. why?
  • What is voice box and ujjayi breath and chanting, why is it good, why is it relaxing (looking at nervous system) and What is its effect on the mind?

Cardiovascular System


  • What is the function of the cardiovascular system
  • What is the anatomy of the cardiovascular system
  • What is the difference between right and left ‘heart’
  • How is the heart being innervated
  • What is the difference in structure of the arteries, capillaries and veins
  • How does asana practice effect the cardiovascular system
  • How is it possible that asana practice prevents and reverses atherosclerosis?
  • How does asana practice lower the blood pressure?
  • What is blood pressure
  • What can cause high blood pressure
  • How can pranayama lower the blood pressure
  • How can meditation lower the blood pressure
  • Why are inversions beneficial for the cardiovascular system? and how can inversions prevent and reverse ‘spataderen’
  • How is it possible that yogis stop their heart from beating and still live?
  • Why we could also ask you to slow down your heart beat but it is simply a little too difficult
  • which practices should we avoid in low blood pressure and why?
  • which practices should we avoid in high blood pressure and why?

Digestive system


  • What is the function of the digestive system
  • What is the anatomy of the digestive system
  • What is the relation between stress and the digestive system and common western diseases, like: coeliakie, irritable bowel syndrome, gall stone, peptic ulcer, colon cancer, reflux and obesitas?
  • What is the relation between stress and those diseases looking at the independent nervous plexus regulating the gut (enteric nervous system, ‘gut’ feeling)
  • What is the relation between eating and mind and quality of digestion? (Why should we not speak while we eat, why should we not watch television while we eat)
  • What is a yogic diet?
  • What is sattvic, rajasic and tamsic food? What is the relation between those foods and the state of the mind (according to whom?)
  • How much time do we need in between food and yogic practices?
  • What is the beneficial effect of yogasana on the digestive system?
  • What specifically is the effect of twisting asanas?
  • What do we mean when we say twisting asanas clean/purify the body and stimulate the digestive system?
  • What is the effect of inversion on the digestive system
  • What is the effect of pranayam on the digestive system
  • What is the effect of mediation on the digestive system (via a link with the mind/emotions)?

Endocrine System


  • What is the function of the endocrine system? What is the difference between endocrine and nervous system?
  • What is the anatomy of the endocrine system?
  • Which glands make up the endocrine system and What are their functions?
    • pituitary gland
    • hypothalamus
    • thyroid gland
    • parathyroid gland
    • exocrine pancreas
    • adrenal gland
    • ovaries
    • testes
    • other glands: pineal, thymus,…
  • What is the effect of yoga on each gland and which practices specifically stimulate which gland?
  • What is the relation between the glands and the chakras?
  • How can yoga benefit certain common modern diseases like:
    • diabetes
    • hypo/hyperthyroid







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